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Pressure mounts for government to act on home care waitlist

The Department of Health has not met its July deadline for the release of data on the new national queue for home care, a key transparency measure of the government’s home care reforms.

However, it is understood from industry sources the department will release information on the size of the national queue before the end of August.

Under the government’s legislative changes to home care packages, a centralised wait list of people approved for a package was established on 27 February. However, the department has repeatedly said it had to be confident the data was “stable” before making the information publicly available.

The department told a Senate estimates hearing on 30 May the first release of national queue data would be published “by the end of July”, but this public reporting has been delayed.

The Department of Health has committed to releasing information on the size of the national queue and individual expected wait times via My Aged Care. It will also publicly report on maximum expected wait times by package level to provide transparency to consumers about to join the bottom of the queue.

This is the first time accurate data on waiting times and the level of unmet demand for home care packages will be available to the government and aged care sector.

Last week Labor called on the Turnbull Government to immediately publish information on expected package wait times and raised concerns over the increasing demand for high-level home care.

Shadow assistant minister for ageing Helen Polley told parliament her office received calls every week from “distressed and frustrated” families who were unable to access their assessed package and were “in the dark” over their place in the national queue.

Significant waiting times for home care packages, particularly at the high levels, have been a long-running issue in the sector, and peak bodies including the National Aged Care Alliance have lobbied both Labor and Coalition governments to end the rationed aged care system and uncap the supply of packages.

As Community Care Review has reported, home care providers and consumer peaks told the Aged Care Legislated Review of the Living Longer Living Better reforms a lack of available Level 3 and 4 packages meant consumers were topping up basic services with private funds or relying on the acute care system.

Older people assessed for a home care package can take up a lower level package as an interim option, while they continue to hold their place in the queue.

Consumer and industry peak bodies have called for the government to speed up the release of additional home care packages and convert current vacant Level 1 and 2 packages into higher level packages to better align the availability of packages with assessed need.

Labor introduced the four levels of home care and committed to growing the number of packages to 100,000 by 2017-2018 as part of the LLLB reforms.

Senator Polley told parliament that older people were at risk of prematurely entering residential aged care and seeing their health deteriorate while they waited to access the care they had been assessed for.

She detailed the circumstances of a number of individuals, including an older person who has been waiting more than 432 days for a Level 4 package.

Another man with high care needs and limited family support was unable to be discharged from hospital without the appropriate home care services in place and may be placed into residential care, she said.

“There are real people in the community being admitted to hospital and residential care prematurely and, in more harrowing cases, passing away while they wait to hear about the status of their home care packages,” Senator Polley said in her speech to parliament.

According to this year’s Productivity Commission Report on Government Services, 57 per cent of new home care clients in 2015-2016 accessed care within three months of being approved by an ACAT, which is down on previous years. Some 23 per cent of new consumers did not enter care within 9 months of a home care approval.

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5 Responses to Pressure mounts for government to act on home care waitlist

  1. Mike for his wife August 17, 2017 at 3:28 pm #

    ” convert current vacant Level 1 and 2 packages into higher level packages”

    BUT, where are they? We don’t want to convert.

    My wife was been approved level 3-4 on 29/09/2016.

    Because I am available as a part time carer we currently:

    Package pending (not assigned)
    Agreed minimum package Home Care Package Level 2 .

    AND this has been the situation since approval 231 day ago.

    If I was not here she would be in Residential Care!

    All smoke and mirrors.

  2. David Fenwick August 17, 2017 at 5:29 pm #

    Waiting, waiting, waiting. Older Australian who have opted for the choice of staying in their home with the support of a suitable HCP with a chosen provider are being forced wait months for the actual allocation after they have already waited months after being advised that they are eligible for a HCP at a defined care level. Then after the long wait for a Level 4, they are allocated a Level 2 and told to wait. Can you be half pregnant?

    If one has been assessed as requiring a Level 4, what use is a Level 2? Clearly these people have needs that a Level 2 cannot adequately address? They are being short-changed? This must be denying those waiting for a Level 2 access to the support they require also.

    Invariably, we are seeing more of these people being admitted to residential care because they simply cannot access the home care they desire? So where is the “customer choice and control” these reforms were meant to bring? Furthermore the Department cannot satisfactorily explain exactly where all these 50,000 additional HCPs have been distributed to and precisely how long these waiting prospective care recipients can expect to wait for the appropriate HCP required?

  3. Val Fell August 20, 2017 at 2:09 pm #

    another example–a gentleman living with Lewy Bodies and Parkinsons has decided ,against his real wishes, to go into residential care. He is on the list for a level 4 package but does not know when it will be assigned.

  4. Angus Kerr August 30, 2017 at 3:45 pm #

    It will be interesting to see the data relating to the number of Home Care Packages that have been assigned but have not been taken up within the 56 days allocated?

    How many instances have consumers been allocated a Home Care Package but have not had the resources or capability to choose a suitable provider to administer the package (think of those who English is their second language, have cognitive decline and/or little or no family support)? How many cases have consumers failed to act on the allocation of a Home Care Package at all? Suggestions of a Consumer Support Platform would no doubt improve consumers ability to choose a home care provider and inturn reduce waiting times for others.

    Independent Facilitation Support would be a start, as it would not only support link participants to providers and ensure the committed supports are accessed but it would support consumers in exploring what is possible through their Home Care Package and provide them with clear expectations of what a Home Care provider can and indeed will provide.

  5. Sarah Morrison August 31, 2017 at 8:00 am #

    My mother was accessed and approved by ACAt for a level 3-4 package and we were told this was a Priority assessment. This was in May 2017. We were told that it could take a “very long time” to be approved by the government, and when I asked How long Inwas told “months”. Taken aback, I asked how many months – it soon became clear that noone from ACAT could tell me but that it would certainly be more than 3 months. After this period had passed I rang My.aged .care to be told, very regretfully by the staff member who anwsered my call, that they could not give me any information! That it could be at least six months – but they were reluctant to commit to even a “ball park” figure. Now, after my mother has had yet another of a series of falls, an ongoing problem with serious bowel obstructions, a heart condition and rapidly deteriorating cognition, she is back in hospital, where, at last, I have found out the appalling truth – that her approval could take well over a year, possibly two. She has no family members in Australia other than myself to assist her in any way. This is a disgraceful, cruel and inhuman system, designed by people so monstrous and perverse that they represent everything that is wrong with our society. When I went though this process with my father before he died a few years ago the whole procedure from application to approval took weeks – not months, not years. What has changed? Oh yes. That would be the Liberal Government. Congratulations to the likes of Scott Morrison and Christian Porter – two names that should go down in infamy for their dispicable treatment of the most vulnerable members of our society.

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